Decolonizing Wellness with Charley Berdat-Aaeryamo | Reclaiming Wellness
Reclaiming Wellness

Decolonizing Wellness with Charley Berdat-Aaeryamo | Reclaiming Wellness

By: The Honey Pot Company

Medical herbalist, biochemist and self-proclaimed tea expert at The Bush Empress.

Wellness matters because life matters. It is my belief that our departure from many of the traditional ways of life is integral to a lot of the issues we face as a society today. Wellness is a vital foundation for our sustained existence. It forces us to consciously develop our whole selves. To be a healthy, happy human being means to use appropriate (and often personalized) methods for continued development and growth. We wouldn’t be able to survive for too long without it.

Like many people, my wellness journey started when I was in a state of survival. My body was fighting against the bad habits I had accumulated from a very stressful, high-demanding, corporate job. After a physical exam at the doctor’s office, I was offered drugs to help, but it bothered me that not once the root cause was explored. No questions were asked to understand my personal journey. As a Black person, it’s automatically expected for me to have a whole list of health issues. I was dismissed. I refused for that to be my portion, so I went home to take matters into my own hands and understand how I could implement some better lifestyle practices to address what I suspected to be the root cause. That's when I stumbled across adopting more holistic habits. My eyes opened to the world of herbs. I felt a deep connection to this form of wellness, almost a pull to go in this direction. I experimented with some simple culinary herbs, that many of us have access to and saw what an amazing impact they had on my physical health. I was hooked. This was my purpose! And so the start of my herbalism journey had begun.

My role as an herbalist sets to guide and support a person as whole (mind, body and spirit) so that they feel empowered to reclaim their health. I believe that healing is an innate wisdom passed on through ancestral knowledge and look to share with my community; the marrying of modern science with the collective wisdom of traditional practices.

In the era of #softlife, I feel that it is important to understand that wellness is an act of radical self-care and that self-care is necessary to thrive in this capitalistic world. It also shouldn’t mean dipping into one's savings to support and/or not being able to put food on the table. This impacts my perception to make better decisions for my wellness - to live a life unburdened by stress. Our ancestors went through a lot for us to exist, and I believe they should be our motivation for our wellness. For me, herbalism allows me to honor them by embodying the methods and teachings of the past. Living slow, intentionally and holistically.

My wellness journey does not come without its hindrances. I constantly feel as though I don’t quite belong. That I am an imposter pretending. Without a doubt, we

are all entitled to wellness! But it is an industry, until recently that has been co-opted by many people who just don’t look like me or any Black womxn for that matter. I persistently have to give myself permission to take up space and flourish. Constantly, reminding myself that I am doing this for me, I am doing this for my ancestors and I am doing this to show up as an underrepresented person who will hopefully empower others. We are worthy of it!

After noticing a lack of Black herbalists in the wellness space, it highlighted the need to create a safe community. I think that collectively we are disassociated with the vital role that herbalism plays in our past and present existence. For a long time, we have been removed from the forefront of this space despite us being the pioneers. Black people for centuries have been shut out and many of our practices stolen and gentrified into a more palatable, mainstream package. Representation, relatability and rebuilding understanding are important aspects of creating a safe community. Every moment becomes an opportunity to connect with deeper levels of ourselves. Herbalism permits this symbiotic relationship to exist where we can lean into our ancestral African traditions and modern scientific findings. It really helps to shine a light on this interconnectedness and how relying on one is a disservice to the other.

When we let ourselves rest and indulge in wellness, it’s normal to feel guilty, unsafe and unfamiliar. As Black people, we often measure our worth based on our productivity - something engrained in us through the generations. But self-care is meant to create a safe space for us to cater not only to our physical needs but also to our emotional and spiritual needs. This is an area that is often neglected as we navigate this world that is hyper-focused on capitalist gain and work. A world that particularly exploits Black womxn. Sometimes granting myself permission to take the time to focus on my own healing and wellness feels foreign. I often have to emphasize to myself that I am deserving of this.

I feel that decolonizing our approach to wellness is necessary to help transform the wellness space today. I hope that I am able to highlight the value to look back at these ancient, indigenous practices and rituals that centers both whole-person care and community care. Our wellness is tied to these sacred ways of being. No matter the form of traditional healing method that you are most drawn to lean into the intuitive ways of knowing and remember that the wisdom of our unique lineage helps to shape our culture and identity.